The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Created after the coming of the Elves to Valinor during the Years of the Trees
Through the mountains of the Pelóri on the eastern edge of Aman
Made by the Valar, originally so that the newly arrived Elves could still see the stars beyond the Light of the Trees
Made by Ainur, inhabited by Elves
Settled by Vanyarin and Noldorin Elves
Important peaks
Taniquetil rose nearby
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 12 July 2023
  • This entry is complete

Pass of Light

The deep cleft in the Pelóri

Map of the Pass of Light

In the distant past, when the Valar travelled into the West and founded the realm of Valinor, they raised a wall of mountains, the Pelóri, to protect them against their enemy Melkor. Later, when the first Elves awoke in Middle-earth, many of them accepted the invitation of the Valar to dwell in the Blessed Realm, and made the Great Journey into the West. The Elves had been born beneath starlit skies, whereas Valinor was filled with the Light of the Two Trees, and the Elves still wished at times to look on the stars. The Valar therefore created a deep and narrow valley running through the Mountain Wall to the starlit world beyond. From the West, the Light of the Trees shone through this new valley, and it became known as the Calacirya, the Pass of Light.

Within the valley of the Pass of Light, the Eldar raised a hill named Túna, and on that hill they built their city of Tirion. There the Noldor and the Vanyar dwelt for long ages, ruled by Ingwë the High King of the Elves. The Light of the Trees shone through the valley, past the city of Tirion and out across the waves of the Bay of Eldamar, until it fell on the coasts of Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle that stood in the bay.

Thus the Eldar dwelt in bliss, with the Light of the Trees shining down the Pass of Light, through the three ages of Melkor's imprisonment. At the end of this term, Melkor was released by the Valar and swore to serve penance for his ancient crimes, but instead he began to secretly foment discord and distrust. Discovered, he fled like a black thundercloud down the Pass of Light as he fled from Valinor.

Sometime later, a sudden darkness descended, when the Light that had filled the Pass faded and went out. Melkor had returned to Valinor, and with him went the monstrous spider Ungoliant. Together they had slain the Two Trees and drained the last of their Light, before escaping into Middle-earth. The Pass of Light was filled with gloom, until the Valar created the Sun and Moon to bring light to Aman and Middle-earth alike. At this time the Valar raised their Mountains of Defence even higher, and while the Pass of Light remained as a way through them, its western end was ringed with unsleeping defences guarding against Melkor's return.

Centuries then passed in Middle-earth beyond the Great Sea, which saw Morgoth gather his power and unleash it against Elves and Men, driving them to the brink of defeat. With Morgoth's victory all but assured, the Mariner Eärendil made the perilous voyage to Aman to seek the aid of the Valar. Landing on the shores of Eldamar, he travelled into the Pass of Light and to the city of Tirion, but found it deserted, having arrived in the Blessed Realm at a time of festival. He was greeted, nonetheless, by the Maia Eönwë, who led him to the thrones of the Valar. Eärendil's entreaty was answered by the Powers, who sent an immense force into Middle-earth and defeated the Dark Lord.

After Eärendil's arrival in Aman before the end of the First Age, we hear no more about the Pass of Light. Aman itself continued to exist, though it was taken out of the mortal world after Ar-Pharazôn attempted to invade in II 3319. The natural assumption, then, is that the Pass of Light and its city of Tirion also continued to exist (though there is perhaps some slight doubt about whether it survived Ar-Pharazôn's invasion).1 Certainly Galadriel believed that it persisted, and in her lament for the lost West at the end of the Third Age, she sang of the mists that still lay between her and the distant Pass of Light.



This comment perhaps deserves some expansion. According to Akallabêth, the tale of the Downfall of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn's invading force travelled into the Pass of Light and encamped around Tirion. The next we hear of them, they were buried beneath falling hills to be trapped in the Caves of the Forgotten until the ending of the world. If we take this progression of events literally, the hills must have fallen on them while they were within the Pass of Light (and indeed it would make some sense for this to happen while they were contained within a narrow passage through the mountains).

On that basis, it would seem that the Pass of Light must have been destroyed, or at least badly damaged, during this time. If so, however, no such fate is directly mentioned. It is of course possible that Ar-Pharazôn and his followers were entombed elsewhere in Valinor, or indeed, assuming that they were within the Pass, that the Valar were able to remake the cleft of the Calacirya after the threat had passed.


About this entry:

  • Updated 12 July 2023
  • This entry is complete

For acknowledgements and references, see the Disclaimer & Bibliography page.

Original content © copyright Mark Fisher 1999, 2001, 2016-2017, 2023. All rights reserved. For conditions of reuse, see the Site FAQ.

Website services kindly sponsored by Discus from Axiom Software Ltd.
Find out how you can get the most out of teams using the DISC personality test.
The Encyclopedia of Arda
The Encyclopedia of Arda
Homepage Search Latest Entries and Updates Random Entry